Finalists iterate prototypes in preparation for Flight Week

With only two weeks to go before they launch their CubeSat (cube satellite) prototypes into the sky, the five CTE Mission: CubeSat finalists are refining their mission goals and testing their prototypes’ capabilities. From studying local environments to collecting performance data for scientific instruments, the teams’ missions tackle topics important to their own communities — as well as broader space exploration.

Follow their monthly updates and read on for more highlights from their recent work.

Early testing spurs design adaptations

Building a CubeSat prototype challenges students to experiment with the development process. Through ongoing testing, finalists are able to experience firsthand how missions are iterated in real-life situations.

“We found out that if the GPS sensor is connected to the Arduino by an I2C cable (a protocol for connecting embedded systems) and then powered by a lithium polymer (LiPo) battery, the GPS will not have enough power to work. While this has not caused us to revise our research plan, we realized the importance of reading all technical documents and then testing to ensure the information is correct.”
Freeport High School team

With Flight Week now fast approaching, teams are busy working out their launch plans — including analyzing site suitability and determining methods of launching their prototype. Early preparations helped the teams determine the feasibility of their preliminary proposals and where adjustments were needed.

“The launch team finalized plans to purchase a drone, but have since found that the drone is not currently available from the manufacturer. Instead, we are researching a backup plan. The engineering team has researched how to assemble the components and program the flight and ground station.”
Mooresville High School team

Launch site analysis. Photo courtesy of the Opelika High School team.

Mentors support mission refinements

The national challenge offers the five finalists the opportunity to connect with a range of experts in the space industry. Through webinars and virtual meetings, students can draw from their valuable expertise as the teams finalize their missions. 

“Since the balloon cannot be controlled, the lack of stability may hinder our testing. Our Arduino mentors have created videos explaining balloon flight materials and techniques, in order to keep members safe and track the balloon.”
Princeton High School team

Missions support skills development

By expanding career and technical education opportunities, the U.S. Department of Education aims to help students build skills for future careers and develop a more competitive workforce.

“In addition to the career-ready skills of problem-solving and critical thinking, we are also learning the importance of communicating, collaborating, and using IT applications to meet goals. We are immersed in IT applications when using OnShape, Arudino, XinaBox, and PCBs.”
Opelika High School team

Students exploring prototype technology. Photo courtesy of the Anderson Clark Magnet High School team.

In addition to learning technical skills, students are also flexing their creativity and problem-solving skills through the challenges of the iterative process.

“We believe self-reliance is the most important career-ready skill that the team is employing. There is no cookbook or instruction manual for this project. We are on our own to use the resources provided, troubleshoot, and problem-solve independently before reaching out for help.”
Anderson Clark Magnet High School team

Follow along with Flight Week

Beginning April 23, the finalists will launch their CubeSat prototypes during CTE Mission: CubeSat Flight Week. Subscribe to the CTE Mission: CubeSat newsletter and follow Ed Prizes on Twitter to receive news about the flight events and other Phase 2 updates.

Editor’s note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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